If Turf Moor is Jordan North’s “happy place” then Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium is whatever the polar opposite must be.
For the fourth time in as many seasons, Burnley have rocked up at the Etihad and left nursing the wounds inflicted by a five-nil defeat; a statistic that is as implausible as it is embarrassing.
Worse teams than Burnley have emerged from their fixture against City, if not with a positive result, then at least with a means of restricting the scale of defeat to something more manageable, something their supporters can shrug off with greater ease, something that won’t leave scars which are opened up season after season.
This suggests, to me at least, that the trepidation of Burnley’s visits to the Etihad have now taken up permanent residence in the minds of Burnley’s players and their manager. For it seems that as hammering is followed by hammering; the mental disintegration is such that Dyche can come up with no tactical plan, no team selection, no words of motivation which will have the slightest effect.
In a contest between two teams, it is disconcerting in the extreme that one of those teams can exert no influence whatsoever on the eventual outcome.
It is a situation that will continue to perpetuate unless, or until, there is a change in personal or sadly more likely a change of status of one of the teams and let’s face it, that isn’t going to be City.
Injuries to Josh Brownhill and Nick Pope (who suffered a blow on the head in the process of preserving his clean sheet by making the save which denied Christian Benteke a rare goal towards the end of last Monday evening’s match against Palace) necessitated Burnley handing poisoned-chalice Premier League debuts to Josh Benson and Bailey Peacock-Farrell in goal.
Deputising for Pope in this fixture would be tough for any debutant goalkeeper and as such, the very least Peacock-Farrell could expect and deserve would be some protection from his more experienced colleagues. But James Tarkowski’s careless pass allowed Riyad Mahrez unfettered access to Peacock-Farrell’s goal to put City a goal up as early as the 6th minute.
On the stroke of the 22nd minute the same player benefited from some more dozy defending from a throw in and effortlessly doubled the home team’s lead.
Mendy’s volley which made the score 3-0 by half-time was not as easily preventable, being as it was, the culmination of a sublime move.
In general the Clarets picked up slightly after the break; they scavenged and made better use of the crumbs of possession which fell from City’s table. A few corners fizzed across City’s penalty area and Josh Benson was denied a debut goal when his free kick deflected off the head of a City defender manning the defensive wall and fizzed narrowly wide of Ederson’s goal.
Two further goals were subsequently added, with Mahrez completing his hat-trick and there was still time for City to add what they thought was a sixth goal, when Peacock-Farrell pulled off what was an excellent save only to find the ball deflecting off his elbow and trickling over the line.
His blushes were spared by the all-seeing eye of VAR which detected a foot straying into an offside position. Normally such petty pedantry infuriates me, but on this occasion I was grateful for this tiniest of mercies.
Heaton, Hart and Pope have all previously suffered an identical fate to that which befell Peacock-Farrell yesterday, hopefully this will be of some succour to him and he will go on to enjoy a long and productive career which yesterday’s aberration will not define.
As for his Burnley team mates, it goes without saying that ongoing Premier League tenure depends in no small part to them putting this result behind them as quickly as possible and certainly before the visit of Everton to Turf Moor next Saturday lunch time.
David Thornley offers a sombre Sunday reflection on, yet another 5 goal Clarets rout suffered at the home of Manchester City.
Editor’s note: I cannot fathom why Sean Dyche does not just set up his team to defend a goalless draw at the Etihad. These regular drubbings are heart-breaking for Burnley fans and one or two of our players need the motivation of a good old-fashioned boot up the backside or the Fergie style hair dryer treatment. (TEC.)